Law enforcement seems to be having trouble keeping tabs on their service firearms. On March 24, a young child visiting the Capitol entered the bathroom of the visitor’s center only to find a loaded Glock handgun in one of the stalls. It belonged to one of the Capitol police officers with Speaker John Boehner’s security detail–and this isn’t the first time.
Roll Call reports that another officer with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell left his Glock sidearm and magazine stuffed in the toilet seat cover holder on January 29, while on April 19, a janitor cleaning the Capitol Police headquarters found another handgun “left in plain sight.” Oh, and Capitol Police aren’t required to report such incidences [emphasis mine]:
A report to the Capitol Police Board, obtained Thursday by CQ Roll Call, showed the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended six days of suspension without pay for the officer involved in the Jan. 29 incident. The latter two are still under investigation, which consists of matching the serial number to the department’s inventory record, then interviewing the officer.
How often do officers leave their guns unattended around the Capitol complex? The answer is unknown because Capitol Police are not required to disclose such incidents. The Jan. 29 incident went out over the radio system, but the other two have been kept quiet, based on conversations with nine Capitol Police employees from various divisions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal issues. None seemed surprised, and two offered other examples of officers who were investigated for leaving their guns unsecured or unattended.
“The Department takes very seriously all breaches of Department rules and has established policies that address such matters,” said Lt. Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spokeswoman, in an email. “Each disciplinary matter is thoroughly investigated and reviewed, employees are held accountable for their conduct, and they are provided due process in adjudicating these matters. Depending on the nature and seriousness of the violation, an employee’s record, and other ?required considerations, an appropriate penalty is applied, up to and including termination of employment. As a matter of policy, the Department does not routinely discuss internal personnel matters, in order to maintain the integrity of the Department.”
It’s unclear how thoroughly the two top Republicans in Congress were briefed on lost gun incidents involving their respective security details. Boehner’s office had no immediate comment. McConnell’s office also did not immediately comment.
The publication did correctly note the precariousness of the situation, as the Glock system has no safety, like Sig Sauer (though it has a de-cocker mechanism making it “harder” to fire your first round), thus making it easier for children who have no experience handling firearms susceptible to egregious harm–even death–from this negligence.
Yet, the Capitol Police are hardly alone concerning negligence with their service firearms. Last year, the Milwaukee Sentinel detailed how agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives left their handguns in bathroom stalls, movie theaters, at a hospital, on a plane, or “simply leaving them on top of their vehicles and driving away.”
One rather disconcerting incident that was reported involved an agent who after a night of drinking in Los Angeles in 2011, awoke to find his government-issued Glock missing.
As the saying goes, there are no gun accidents, only negligence.